Our Pandemic Preparations: Alternate operating models
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We've created alternate operating models aligned with stages of a pandemic:
- Aetna's experience serving members in diverse geographic locations across a broad portfolio of product lines during crises has provided us insight into how interruptions in the health care system can affect operations. It also allows us to plan on an integrated basis for delivery of services during a crisis event. Working hand-in-hand with contingency staffing plans, Aetna has created alternate operating models to reallocate staff in response to fluctuations from normal work flows. For example, Aetna expects that usage of elective health care services, such as routine dental care, could decrease during a pandemic, as could member calls to those teams, while calls from members needing assistance with finding health care providers could increase. By overlaying our contingency staffing plans with our alternate operating models, we know where and how to redeploy staff and what activities we could reduce to minimum-level operations during a pandemic to give the highest priority to serving our members' critical needs.
- Each business unit of the company has a continuity plan that incorporates pandemic-specific operating considerations. Our pandemic operating models are tiered to align to both the U.S. government and World Health Organization's stages of a pandemic, and address the specific needs and conditions anticipated in each stage.
- During the H1N1 pandemic our business units were posed to respond quickly, as needed, thanks to our contingency plans. Even before the pandemic threatened, our plans were well tested. Each year we conduct five or six crisis simulation exercises at different Aetna facilities across the country. In recent years we have frequently focused these simulations on a flu outbreak; other simulations include hurricanes, floods and tornadoes. At one scenario at an Aetna service center in the Northeast, employees "called in" with flu-like symptoms resulting in 35 percent reduction of the site's staff over the course of a week. The simulation also included a lock-down and quarantine of the facility for five weeks by state and town health officials. The exercise involved local authorities, including representatives from the police, the department of health, emergency medical technicians and others. Aetna's facility heads put their crisis management and business continuity plans to the test, demonstrating their capability to re-route work, calls and claims.